By Franziska Schroeder and Matilde Meireles in The Conversation.
Most new digital technologies tend to be designed with an able-bodied user in mind. The first desktop computers required fine motor skills to navigate software menus using a mouse, and mobile phones need users to press buttons, swipe screens, and so on. To use such technology a person needs to be fairly dexterous.
In our Performance without Barriers research group, we design digital musical interfaces with disabled musicians in mind. This work engages disabled performers from the start of a new technology and looks at the specific abilities they have. In this way, technologies develop in tandem with them, taking into account their mobility, needs and creative interests.
Current VR technology is designed for the able bodied, but more importantly it often allows only for passive interactions – listening to music performances, such as Elton John’s 360 concert, for example, or “riding” a rollercoaster. We were more interested in how disabled musicians can use VR technologies in an active and performative way.
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